Santa Rosa Peanut Butter Challenge begins for low-income families

Special to the Press Gazette / USA TODAY NETWORK

MILTON — Since peanuts are one of the major crops grown in Santa Rosa County – and peanut butter is a great protein – UF/IFAS Extension Santa Rosa is holding their annual Peanut Butter Challenge to feed local families in need.

Collected peanut butter will be distributed through several local food banks that serve in Santa Rosa County.

The event is running now through Nov. 24. 

Over 1,200 jars of peanut butter were collected in the last Santa Rosa Extension office Peanut Butter Challenge to help area residents in need. This year's peanut butter drive begins Oct. 1.

To participate, bring unopened jars of peanut butter from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays to the UF/IFAS (University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences) Extension office, 6263 Dogwood Drive, Milton.

Other collection sites in Santa Rosa County include:

  • UF/IFAS Santa Rosa County Extension Office, 5258 Booker Lane, Jay.
  • All Santa Rosa County Libraries in Jay, Pace, Milton, Navarre, and Gulf Breeze.
  • Santa Rosa County Administration complex, 6495 Caroline St., Milton.
  • South Service Center, 5841 Gulf Breeze Parkway, Gulf Breeze.
  • Santa Rosa County Visitors Center, 8543 Navarre Parkway, Navarre.

In 2020, the Santa Rosa Extension collected 1,273 jars (1,706 pounds) of peanut butter for families in need. Statewide, participating county extension offices received over 27,000 pounds of peanut butter. 

The project took on new meaning last year as demand for food bank assistance had increased as an economic effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest numbers from the United States Department of Agriculture shows food insecurity affected roughly one in 10 Floridians in 2020.

Coordinated by UF/IFAS Extension faculty, staff and volunteers since 2012, the Peanut Butter Challenge has collected thousands of jars of peanut butter from residents, volunteer groups and businesses in 16 northwest Florida counties. The Florida Peanut Producers Association and Florida Peanut Federation generously contribute pallets of peanut butter every year.

“We are always impressed and touched by the communities’ grassroots support for this program,” said Libbie Johnson, agricultural agent for UF/IFAS Extension Escambia County and co-organizer of the challenge since its inception. “The peanut industry is a great contributor to our state, but this event also shows how the nutritious food it produces can help our fellow community members who may be struggling.”

Businesses, and civic or church organizations, as well as individuals interested in collecting should contact Chris Verlinde, christinav@santa.fl.gov; or Mary Salinas, maryd@santarosa.fl.gov, 850-623-3868. A peanut butter collection box will be provided for groups.

To join or partner with Santa Rosa County's collection this year, call 850-777-7884.